Sunday, March 16, 2014

Outré Intro: Blake's 7 (1978 - 1981)

For the second installment of “Outre Intro,” I’ll be gazing at the title sequence or introductory montage of the first season of the Terry Nation science fiction series, Blake’s 7 (1978 – 1981). 

This cult-TV series involves a group of rebels fighting a totalitarian Federation in the distant future. 

Helping these rebels in their cause was a giant alien starship, the Liberator.

Dudley Simpson’s electronic march -- a harbinger of the futuristic setting -- commences, and the first image to appear on screen is of a massive Federation metropolis, a gray technological dome. Around the dome it is blackest night. 

One might interpret the conjunction of images to suggest, then, a kind of technological night, which seems an appropriate metaphor for a futuristic dystopian state. Freedom and its sunlight have been blotted out. Permanently.

Then, from out of the center of the dome emerges a dot-matrix/pixelated-style representation of a human face. This is the dissident Roj Blake (Gareth Thomas), and the image of his face might be considered one that conveys the information of a space age “WANTED” poster.

The image of Blake’s visage soon dissolves into the lens of an oscillating black surveillance camera. 

Again, we learn something significant about Blake’s culture by the placement in the montage of this particular artifact. We get a 1984/Orwell feel, in particular, a sense of the Federation and its constant monitoring of its citizenry.

The implication is of freedom lost under the all-seeing, all-knowing eye of Big Brother.

After the shot of the futuristic spy camera, the images in the introductory montage resolve to an imposing view of an armored Federation soldier. The background remains a light, almost baby blue, but the soldier himself is washed in garish red light, and so the overall portrait is uncannily evocative of a military recruitment poster.  

We understand, we’re looking at state propaganda.

As the trooper raises his weapon, he shoots at the screen itself (at the audience, essentially), and the word “ELIMINATE” pops up.  

The reappearance of Blake represents a return to the WANTED poster motif, and makes the viewer aware that the all-seeing, all-knowing Federation is hunting down this criminal…our series hero, with lethal intentions.

There is an explosion, and it quickly turns into Blake’s face, only with the image turned negative (suggesting his death). 

Without warning, Blake’s face (a kind of ID photo, remember…) zooms into outer space as a cascade of small, colorful planets race by. This image of outer space makes the viewer aware that the hunt of the criminal by the Federation will occur in the final frontier, far out in the galaxy.

Lastly, the elegant Liberator zooms into the frame, and the series title is displayed over a Federation side-ways arrow-head symbol (an interesting variation on the Starfleet symbol in Star Trek).

So, to recap: the Blake’s 7 opener, establishes the ruling society (the Federation, its city, its propaganda, its technology and its enemy), and also reveals the program’s hero, Blake, and his status as an outlaw. 

Finally, the montage suggests a chase as the surveillance state hunts down the individual with the intent to eliminate him.

Today, some aspects of this “futuristic” intro may look dated, for certain, but the arrangement and symbolism still conveys beautifully the series’ background and message.  Below, you can see the montage in its entirety:

Next week on Outré Intro: Chris Carter’s Millennium (1996 – 1999) 


  1. The Blake's 7 intro is pretty straightforward but your breakdown is a good one. This series, in my opinion, is still the finest 'space' show to come out of the U.K. (As much as I like the original version, I don't consider Doctor Who wholly to be of that strain.)

    You are right about the "dated" aspects/look of the Blake's 7 opening title sequence. The film-opticals look now looks old since we are so used to the electronic (digital) mixes of more recent shows. Have you seen the opening titles to Flash (1990-91), lately? They were posted electronically, at a time when other shows were still given a "film finish". (Star Trek: The Next Generation had already gone that route, from day one, which allowed them to do a lot more using a lot less money than if it had been posted on film.)

    On a more humorous and less stiff note, whenever I watch the opening titles to the great Blake's 7 I always pop-out of the experience: I've always thought that the pixel-ish elements of the graphics look like needlepoint.

    1. Hi Barry,

      I also love Blake's 7 (especially the first two seasons...). I think it's a terrific show, despite the poor effects work. I agree with you that Doctor Who isn't quite in this vein.

      I haven't watched The Flash titles recently...maybe that's one I need to write about. I was thinking about going back to the intro of the Incredible Hulk...

      It was nice to read your comment, and I enjoyed reading your blogpost on Space:2099.

      best wishes,

  2. Needlepoint! I thought I was the only one that had that pop into my mind when seeing those sorts of graphics.

    The title sequence of Blake's 7 is a good example of getting a lot of information across very efficiently. Kind of the polar opposite of using an explanatory narration or crawl during the opening - or for that matter the classic "catchy theme song explaining the premise"

    Strangely enough I didn't see Blake's 7 until I was in my early twenties when a Canadian cable channel played it (along with running Space 1999, The Tomorrow People, Doctor Who, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray, Fireball XL-5 - no, it wasn't the science fiction channel!) but I had a liberator toy I bought when I was ten. Had no idea what it was but thought it looked cool. Same thing happened with Thunderbirds now that I come to think of it. A friend had some Thunderbirds toys but neither of us had ever seen the show. We thought they worked well together with our Eagle Transporter and Freighter - little did we know they came from a common source!

    1. If you lived in the Toronto area back when you were in your early twenties you may be thinking of WNED's (PBS, Buffalo) run of Blake's 7 in 1990 or so. (Obviously I don't know how old you are.) I wrote a bit on this issue on my blog today...

      Canada's YTV network was giving a few of those shows you mention a spin back around 1989 - 1992, and perhaps beyond but I don't remember.